Hey there. Welcome to the Digital Marketing 101 series! In each post, we’ll help define digital marketing terminology, and provide some context and history along the way.

Digital Marketing is categorized into overarching channels such as Display, Video, Social, Email, Mobile, Native, Paid Search and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Let’s start with...

Display Advertising

Display Advertising is usually what comes to people’s minds when I mention I am a digital marketer. “Oh, you make those little banner ads that follow me across the Internet?”

A little overly simplified, but yes – it’s a big part of what I do.

How the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau) defines Banners:         

Also known as “display ads”, banner advertisements are a form of graphical ads embedded into a webpage, typically including a combination of static/animated images, text and/or video designed to convey a marketing message and/or cause the user to take an action.

Traditionally, advertisers and agencies only bought ad impressions directly from publisher websites.

An impression is counted each time a banner ad is served by ad serving software. Publisher websites include any website that publishes content and obtains revenue by selling advertising (banner ads). This includes national behemoths like down to your local news website. The impressions were sold by teams of real-life humans directly to advertisers and agencies for a negotiated price per thousand impressions, or CPM. (Cost Per Mille – M is the Roman numeral for thousand.) The process was slow and difficult to manage at scale.

However, not all impressions are created equal.

Just because an impression is served, does not mean someone sees the ad. If the ad is served below the fold, or below the viewable portion of a website before scrolling, it won’t be visible until (and IF) the user scrolls down the page.

The advertising community recognized this issue in 2010, and the definition of a viewable impression became standardized.

A Viewable Impression is defined as having at least 50% of the ad shown on screen for one second or longer.

Programmatic Display

Now, advertisers and agencies primarily use Ad Networks such as the Google Display Network or Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) to buy impressions from Ad Exchanges.

Ad Exchanges auction banner inventory at the impression level across the internet and on apps, all in real-time.

This real-time bidding (RTB) technology allows advertisers to indicate the most they are willing to pay per desired action – such as a “click” – instead of buying impressions by the thousand.

By definition, DSPs are vendor neutral. Google Ads has targeting features like a DSP but is not vendor neutral. It only serves ads on the Google Display Network and Google/DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Many DSPs, such as Centro and have minimum-buy thresholds: for example, spending a minimum of $25,000 in a 6-month period. This often prohibits small to mid-sized advertisers from purchasing directly.

If you find a DSP you’d like to try, call around to your local agencies or media partners and ask which DSPs they utilize.

Some DSPs and networks have no minimum purchase requirements, such as StackAdapt and Google Display Network.

DSPs and ad networks allow marketers to automate portions of their media purchases. This automation is called programmatic advertising. It’s a broad term covering the automation of everything from ad placement, negotiated price, as well as optimizing creative.

Most platforms allow advertisers to run multiple versions of their creative and let them auto-optimize, serving more impressions of ads that have better click through rates.

The ad’s click through rate (CTR) is determined by dividing the number of clicks by the number of impressions; typically ranging from 0.05% to a 0.50%. Use Google’s Display Benchmark Tool to follow CTR trends by country, vertical and even ad size and format!

Depending on the campaign goal, advertisers can select different bid types such as CPC (cost-per-click), vCPM (viewable cost-per-thousand) or CPA (cost-per-acquisition/action).

Ads with different bid types can compete in the same auction. When this happens, ads with different bid types are converted to an effective CPM, or eCPM, in order to compete apples to apples.

An eCPM is determined by estimating how many actions the CPC, vCPM or CPA ad must get in order to receive 1,000 impressions. All the programming, auctions and server communications are happening in the background of each page load – mind blowing, am I right?

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Audience Targeting Capabilities

While DSPs solve the problem of dispersing your banners across multiple websites on the Internet (and mobile apps), it also offers some amazing audience targeting capabilities.

Keyword/Contextual Targeting allows advertisers to serve ads on pages with content that contains a particular keyword.

Example: Max’s Model Trains can serve an ad for a new train set next to content that contains the keyword “diesel locomotives.” This makes sense, because if someone is interested enough to read about trains, they’re more likely to be an enthusiast who also purchases model trains.

Groups of keywords can be lumped together as Topics/Categories and then made available as ready-made targeting options.

Example: DSPs often have predefined categories such as Automotive, Finance, Real Estate, etc. These topics can usually be divided into more specific subcategories since they are so broad. For example, Real Estate is usually broken out into Rental, Commercial and Residential Properties.

Behavioral/In-Market Targeting allows marketers to target users who are likely in-market for a particular product or service. This is done by tracking a user’s online behavior. If a user has shown increased search activity and consumed increased levels of content on a particular topic -  such as mid-sized automobile - a DSP will label said user as in-market for this product.

Many DSPs offer the ability to create a Look-alike Audience, or a group of online users who exhibit similar demographics and behaviors as people who are already interacting with your ads.  

Most users who click an ad and are directed to your website’s landing page won’t take action the first visit. This is why retargeting is so important.

Retargeting allows you to “follow” a user online and continue serving ads to them after they’ve visited your website. These ads typically have CTRs two to three times your typical CTR, but the volume is much lower since you can only target people who have already visited your site/page.

Make sure your web analytics platform and your ad serving platform talk to each other. If you use Google Analytics as your web analytics platform and Google Ads to serve ads, make sure you link your accounts and enable auto-tagging. Since they’re both Google products, they play nicely with each other.

For non-Google Ads banners, use Tracking URLs or UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters in your URLs to ensure you track the traffic’s source, medium, campaign and ad content. Learn more about UTM Codes in this article: 4 (FREE!) Things To Do Before You Spend Money On Digital Marketing.

Digital Creative

Some of the most common banner ad sizes are the:

  • Leaderboard (728x90)
  • Inline rectangle/big box (300x250)
  • Half-page (300x600)
  • Wide skyscraper (160x600)
  • Mobile leaderboard (320x50)

Banners can either be static (a still image such as a .JPG or .PNG) or animated. Animated ads were traditionally .SWF or Flash files. Flash has fallen out of vogue for security reasons, and most browsers no longer support it. HTML5 replaced .SWF as the gold standard for animated ads.

To create Flash ads, users required expensive software, but beautifully animated HTML5 ads can be built using free software like Google Web Designer.

As best practice, banners should have a clear message with some Call to Action (CTA). Try to avoid vague (and over-used) CTAs such as “Click Here.” Instead, use the CTA to inform the user what to expect if they clicked.

Also, most DSPs require you to include your logo in your ad, which you should be doing anyway. If you ever see an ad without a logo, it’s likely something shady and should be avoided.

Now that you know all about display advertising, you can speak confidently to those of us entrenched in the digital marketing world. If you’ve had your coffee and are feeling overzealous, earn some extra credit by checking out this full glossary of IAB terminology:

Check back often for more Digital Marketing posts, and keep learning!

Smart solutions for your business

When you're running a business, it's important to have a trusted financial partner – a team of experts who will listen and help you make informed decisions. Whether you're looking for expertise in financing future growth, processing payments, maximizing cash flow or another financial need, Old National is here to help.

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